Tomás Cotik — Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin — Centaur Records CEN 3755
Like a breath of fresh air, Tomás Cotik’s new album of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin has an invigorating quality that will appeal to first-time listeners as well as those who are familiar with each piece. By using a Baroque bow on a modern violin, Cotik has found a new twist in the performance of these pieces, but that is not all. His amazing technical skill and artistic know-how, as shown in this 2-CD package on the Centaur label, create an indelible interpretation of Bach’s music that leaves us with a smile between the ears.
A native of Buenos Aires, Cotik discovered a passion for violin that generated a world-wide quest for education and opportunities. He left Argentina when he was 18 years old to study at the University of Freiburg in Germany where he earned Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. Afterwards he earned an Artistic Diploma from the Glenn Gould school in Toronto and received a Government of Canada Award. After moving to Florida, he became one of the concertmasters for the New World Symphony, obtained his doctorate from the University of Miami, and taught music at Florida International University and West Texas A & M University before arriving at Portland State University in 2016 where he is assistant professor of violin.
In addition to his teaching, Cotik has honed his artistic chops, burnishing his resume as a top-tier violinist by playing with Chamber Music Northwest and other prestigious ensembles. He also has contributed to 15 recordings, excelling in a wide range of music from Mozart to Piazzolla. Now he has added another feather to his cap with the Bach’s music.
Bach wrote three sonatas and three partitas for solo violin sometime from the latter part of the 1710s and the early 1720s. The pieces have been considered some of the most technically and artistically challenging in the violin repertoire. While the sonatas consist of four movements that start slowly and end briskly (with a fugue and another slow movement in between), the partitas vary between five and eight movements with many of them based on dances such as the minuet, gavotte, gigue, saraband, sicilienne, allamanda, and bourrée.
Cotik’s combines impeccable technique and an intuitive artistry to fashion a mesmerizing interpretation of these pieces. The slower movements have a thoughtful, meditative quality that can draw listeners inward. The faster movements leap about with quicksilver turns that is downright cheerful. Cotik’s execution of double-stops, triple-stops, and quadruple stops tickles the ears, and throughout he has a nuanced approach to dynamics that keeps every phrase fascinating.
I love the Sarabanda in Violin Partita No 2. Cotik has a wonderful way of stretching a tone just a bit as if he is pulling taffy. Then the following Giga sounds exuberant and blithely playful. Many listeners will be familiar with the Preludio and Gavotte en Rondeua on Partita No 3. In Cotik’s hands. They sound a fresh as a morning breeze and can put a smile on the face of even the most recalcitrant curmudgeon.
But these are just a few of the many wonders that you will enjoy in Cotik’s playing, which brilliantly convey the elegant and refined but not fussy music that Bach wrote.